SIFAX boss tasks govt on scanners’ provision to enhance timely cargo inspection
by Uzoamaka Anagor-Ewuzie
October 11, 2017 | 12:27 am| | | Start Conversation
Worried by the recurrence of illegal arms importation into the country through the nation’s seaport, a concerned terminal operator has called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the provision of cargo inspection scanners at the ports.
Taiwo Afolabi, Group executive vice chairman of SIFAX Group, who said this, also expressed displeasure at the slow pace at which the Federal Government is addressing the problem of faulty scanners at the port.
According to him, the development compels officers of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to resort to 100 percent physical examination of cargo, which not only cause delay in cargo clearance but has the capacity to compromise national security especially at the time when the nation’s general election is on the way.
“Within the last eight months, the number of arms that have been illegally imported into the country through the port is staggering and distressing. We are convinced that absence of the needed facilities like scanners at the ports has created room for unpatriotic criminals to keep smuggling arms and other offensive imports into the country,” he said.
The situation, he said, creates little room for Customs to be able to prevent the recurrence, because they are not well equipped.
Recall that about 2,671 arms and ammunition illegally imported into the country, have been seized by Customs on four separate occasions at the Tin-Can Island and Apapa Ports this year alone. Also, it was on record that Turkey was identified as the country of origin where the illegal imports came from.
“It is worrisome that the Federal Government has not shown any urgent response and decisiveness needed to deal with illegal importation of arms and other offensive imports. The way to go is to urgently provide scanners at the port,” the SIFAX boss suggested.
Aside from putting the national security at risk, Afolabi further stated that lack of scanning equipment at the port will hinder the economic direction of the government as contained in the Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business at the port, which was signed few months back by the then acting President, Yemi Osinbajo.
According to Afolabi, the cargo clearing processes at the port under the present condition would remain cumbersome, thereby making Nigerian ports unattractive due to high cost of doing business that comes with unfriendly port environment.
Afolabi however urged the Federal Government to take advantage of private sector finance to acquire new scanners in view of the current dwindling financial capability of government.
“I have been an advocate of concessioning the port scanning services in the country to private operators. Nigeria is just exiting recession and the government does not have the financial muscle to undertake this kind of huge capital investment.
“Just like the government concessioned the seaports in 2006, which has today yielded great results and turned the maritime sector around, concessioning the scanning services at ports will also help in improving efficiency at the port and curb the dangers, delay and cost associated with 100 percent physical examination currently being carried out by Customs,” he noted.
The SIFAX boss however urged the government to expedite action in the concessioning of scanning services at the ports. “Terminal operators have the capacity to invest in the scanning services and this can create more revenue for the government, curb the importation of arms and other dangerous cargoes into the country and enhance Ease of Doing Business at the ports”.
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